It is important for students to learn how to defend themselves, mentally and physically, yet self-defense training is not widely available or publicized.
Kenneth Klotz has been teaching at the university for 22 years, and has been teaching the self-defense class since 2008. The two credit class, Kinesiology 144T, which starts at 8 a.m., is the only self-defense class that the University of Maryland offers for credit.
“It isn’t just self-defense, it is self protection,” said Klotz. “Self-defense is just physical, but self protection has mental components.”
Klotz thinks people should address it even before college, to determine what blind spots they may have, and gain awareness.
“The most important thing is that we are aware of our surroundings,” Klotz said. “No person deserves to be attacked. The world of headphones and cellphones can be one of the biggest factors of your environment.”
Lilia Karapetyan, a sophomore criminal justice and French double major, took taekwondo as a child but doesn’t remember much from it. She wants to learn self-defense in the future.
“[Self-defense] builds confidence and can help in unusual situations,” Karapetyan said.
If there were more self defense classes at the university at different times to fit in her schedule, rather than the one section offered, Karapetyan would take them and believes more people would too.
“I think [the university] could advertise self defense more, like posters on campus,” she said. “If they advertised it more, there would be a much higher demand.”
Karapetyan hopes to learn Thai Boxing one day. She learned about it through an anime series, and it uses sharp points of the body to defend yourself.
“I want to take in-person classes,” she said. “If learning online, your technique will be all wrong. I want to learn habits and build-up muscle.”
Kellina Wantau, a senior journalism major, took a self-defense class with CHAARG, and found it really opened her eyes and stuck with her. The women teaching the class talked about how women were assaulted and they couldn’t do anything about it.
“I feel like [self-defense] is important to know as a girl. I want to be able to defend myself,” she said.
Wantau thinks that the university should advertise self-defense more. She thinks they could add it to a general education credit along with other life skills, so more people would know about it and take the class.
“I think it is important for all students to do a self audit on how safe [they are] and mental defense awareness,” said Klotz. “UMD is like a small city, there are a lot of people.”
Klotz said you have to make the situation real for the student, and make them visualize what could happen to protect themselves. Klotz also said people can freeze up with fear, and you have to breathe through that.
The biggest disinformation is what part of the body to strike. You can verbally de-escalate the situation first, and may have to be firmer and stronger with your words. Klotz said you don’t want to hit soft targets like the abs and the chest, since that can fail. Even striking the groin is not full proof, stick to the eyes and throat instead.
Running is also a form of self-defense, and fighting should be a last resort, Klotz said. But, if your life is being threatened, defending yourself takes mental and physical training.
“Why not ensure by training that you are mentally prepared first and physically prepared if it comes to that,” Klotz said. While there are not many free self-defense classes in the area, students can try to sign up for Klotz’s class or look for seminars that he or other instructors teach. Maybe in the future, the university will offer more classes if students become more aware of the importance of defending themselves.